As I was searching for a book that K.C. described, I happened upon Bradford Smith's 1957 book "Why we behave like Americans". Written in the lens of the post war baby boom beginnings, Smith fills the book with the 1957 "balance sheet" of American cultural facts. In his ending chapters "Where are we going", he celebrates the American paradoxes - great personal freedom and great conformity; poverty amidst great plenty; great friendliness and shameful brutality; generosity and selfish corruption and graft, easygoing informality and burdensome tension.... and the list goes on.
"Harmonious diversity is the hallmark of American life - a harmony sharpened by dissonance, a diversity held together by counterbalancing powers". And so it appears some of the strength in American culture is our ability to disagree in relatively peaceful ways but with the unified principle of equality (and all of its paradoxes of liberty and social cooperation).
I think much of the framing of American culture has been from of an attitude of abundance. The "New World" - a vast land of seemingly endless natural resources was "discovered" and early risk takers (entrepreneurs) took advantage of its abundance to invest in their dreams. Now 500 years later, not only are America's resources "known" much of the world is "known" and the concept of a "New World" is difficult to comprehend. Could this mean a transition to an attitude of scarcity?
An attitude of scarcity creates a dissonance around the principle of equality and tramples the hope of the "pursuit of happiness". Each new discovery illustrates how little we know and presents plenty of "New Worlds" of opportunity.
The paradoxes will continue - attitudes will determine your happiness.